Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another goodbye

As if to mark this week for what it is, I've received three rejection letters from institutions where I had applied for faculty posts earlier in the season. One came in the form of a personal email from someone I had spent some time with on the phone, and whose conversation had in fact decided me in favor of an application which I was leaning against submitting.

Redacted to preserve anonymity, he wrote:
Dear Articulate,

No public announcement yet, but I am writing to say that we have made an offer in our [Field 1] search and it has been accepted. I know these things sometimes linger without conclusion for the candidates until someone mentions that so-and-so got the job. I didn't want that to happen in this case.

In the end, we hired [name], a 2007 [Top-ranked Private University] PhD. Her central work on [research focus] fit the main focus of our search very well, but her secondary specialities in [secondary areas] proved irresistible to the committee because of [reasons].

So, thanks for applying and all the best for the future.

It took me a week, and a couple thrown-away drafts to reply:
Dear Rick,

I thank you for your thoughtfulness in thinking of me. To be honest, I made the decision a couple of months ago to walk away from academia. Four years after completing my dissertation, and ~150 faculty applications later, I'd had enough. I am bitterly disappointed and discouraged by the utter lack of societal support for education, and by what I perceive as a pervasive spinelessness among the academic community, especially in the humanities, to stand up and say "enough is enough." It simply isn't right that there are so few positions, that pay and benefits are so pathetic, and that so many inestimably worthy PhDs are left to wallow in unemployment for so long. I spent last semester in "adjunct servitude" teaching what was called part-time--I had 78 students in two courses-- for a measly $7700 with no benefits, and nothing more than a term-to-term contract. I encouraged them to split the courses in two for subsequent terms and hire me full-time with benefits, which they refused to do. So I resigned at the end of the term rather than renew under those conditions. And I've ceased applying for faculty positions.

I've decided to live off of savings for the next couple years, and work to build my own research firm, working on [the crux of my research]. Who knows if it will succeed. But frankly, anything is better than working for a private university (commanding $30,000 year in tuition) to make no more on an hourly basis than I did as a waiter twenty years ago (with no more job security or benefits than I had then). The hardest thing for me is leaving behind the classroom, which I love, and my students. I am a good teacher. Of that I have no doubt. My student evaluations confirm this. What a pity to society that there are thousands like me, far more than those hired to faculty positions, pushed out of a career we've spent our lives preparing for.

Enough is enough!

All my best to you Rick, as well, and best wishes for [new hire's] present and future success.

I've come to believe that some things simply need to be said. I just wonder if anyone is listening.

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